Over the past three years I have had the privilege of being the pitch coach/ pitch doctor to a whole load of Accelerators on the London scene – Techstars, MSVentures, Startupbootcamp, Mass Challenge, Wayra, Barclays & Techstars, … and the list wonderfully goes on. I have accidentally become a lover of Fintech – a word I didn’t know existed two years ago. I love it because I love the stories and passion behind the startups. I have also seen my fair share of good and bad pitching and all that comes with that. So here are five tips that I believe will stand any startup in good stead.
1) It is your story, no-one else’s. Only you can tell it
Everyone has an opinion (including myself). Now I limit my opinion to the arena of story-telling – can I hear the problem, do I believe you have the solution and do I believe you? However, this is also where everyone else loves to weigh in. Every Angel, Mentor and VC in town will have an opinion about content – say this, don’t say that, do this, don’t do that. Pick only a handful of really trusted advisors and ignore everyone else. We all know the phrase – too many cooks spoil the broth. Too many opinionated VC’s spoil the startup.
2) Map out your pitch as a story with a beginning, middle and end and speak it out loud as you map it out.
We all love stories. We also all hate meetings/pitches where there is no direction from the speaker. We can’t just open our mouths and hope we find direction. If you are selling a product – something no-one else has done before, then assume that no-one else has heard it. Take your listeners on a journey. Often we forget about the journey and just go for the bullet points and facts. I believe this comes from a lack of confidence – we don’t trust ourselves that people will want to listen to our story. Really, people want to be engaged and entertained, whether they are a VC or a VP. If you have a powerful product/idea, you have a powerful story. Trust it.
3) Imagine your audience are aliens, very wealthy aliens, but aliens.
Aliens don’t know about our world, so we can’t use jargon. We can’t use the word “Online platform” as it will mean nothing to them – they will make up their own definition of it or simply not hear it. This is, of course, what we do as audiences. We hear a well-known phrase, once meaningful now made meaningless by over-use and it just passes us by. Never let any words pass your audience by. You will be amazed what phrases and words you come up with that actually mean something to you. If they mean something to you then they will mean something to the audience – passion translates better than words.
4) Speak 10% louder than you normally would and only pause at the end of your sentences.
95% of my clients do not speak loud enough – this becomes clear in the vocal warm-ups that I do. They also have learnt from newsreaders to pause in the middle …… of the sentence. I believe with my whole heart that everybody just wants to hear a series of good, punchy sentences that end well and tell the story. If we mess with the rhythm of that we are not making the audience feel safe. They will never know where the sentence is going to end and they will get lost as the story gets lost. You want an audience on the edge of their seats not lulled into the back of them!
5) End well.
You are not off stage until you have left the stage totally. Your stage might be a meeting, in which case until you are in the lift and out of the building you are still “On”. If you deliver a great pitch and then slouch at the end, with a huge sigh of relief, that is the thing the audience will remember. On demo days, the pressure is particularly high, so I tell my clients that they are on stage before they set foot on stage and they are only off stage when no-one can see them. Whatever your stage is, recognise it’s power and enjoy it, as much as you can!